How many high school kids can say they've watched their own satellite launch into orbit?
A boy and his cubesat: Rohan Punnoose with the TJ3Sat. (Photo: Thomas Jefferson High School)
Packed tightly among the 28 tiny satellites hitching a ride on last night’s ORS-3 rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Island, Virginia, spaceport was the first-ever satellite built by high school students.
That’s right—space has now been conquered by super-smart teenagers.
TJ3SAT is named for the state-chartered magnet school where it was built, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia. The “3” stands for cubed—the 10x10x11 centimeter satellite is part of a family of spacecraft called cubesats, whose size and shape are standardized to make them easier to fit into the leftover space around bigger launch payloads.
The project began in 2006 as a course in systems engineering, in collaboration with Orbital Sciences, the Virginia-based company that funded the project. Orbital gave technical guidance to the students, but they built the satellite themselves. Once in orbit, TJ3SAT will receive messages from students and amateur radio operators all around the world and, through phonetic voice synthesizer software, speak the messages “aloud” over a designated radio frequency so they ...